Trump’s Budget Would Cut Social Safety Net

Ed Kilgore is probably right. The budget released by the White House on Monday has less chance of becoming a law than a scouting report on the Minnesota Timberwolves does. (After all, there’s already been a budget deal passed, to great acclaim, by the Congress last week.) But as a deep gaze into the teeming maelstrom of ideological sludge and rhetorical vomit that is the modern conservative mind, it is extremely valuable. Usually, it’s Speaker Paul Ryan, the zombie-eyed granny starver from the state of Wisconsin, who presents a “budget” that causes his colleagues to hide behind the drapes and actual economists to immolate themselves.

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As is their wont, The New York Times and most of the rest of the elite media concentrated first and foremost on how this budget will increase The Deficit, thereby standing in naked violation of the shebeen’s First Law of Economics. The human cost is staggering.

That law increases military spending by $195 billion over the next two years and nondefense spending by $131 billion over the same period. The White House is proposing $540 billion in nondefense spending for 2019 — $57 billion below the new spending cap set by Congress. The plan contains at least $1.8 trillion in cuts to federal entitlement programs such as Medicaid, Medicare and food stamps. The White House is proposing to cut funding for a low-income food program known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, by more than 30 percent over a decade. It would also impose work requirements for “able bodied” recipients of food stamps and change how they get their benefits, replacing a portion of the coupons that allow them to purchase food at a grocery store with a premade box of “100 percent American grown foods provided directly to households.”

Imagine, for a moment, the number of families whose lives this ridiculous scheme will make worse. A box lunch budget? “100 percent American grown foods”? Even this president*’s cruelty is jingoistic. And, if you’re keeping score at home, even the box-lunch budget is too luxurious for Mick Mulvaney, the jumped-up Tea Party relic who’s presently the director of the budget.

Mr. Mulvaney, in his letter, said domestic spending at the levels Congress authorized would add too much to the federal deficit. Instead, he proposed using about $11 billion of the money to scale back the social safety net by changing the way health entitlement programs are paid for. That would essentially mean getting rid of mandatory programs now funded automatically and without congressional approval, and covering the cost with discretionary funds that could be cut or redirected in the future. The message, Mr. Mulvaney said, was, “You don’t have to spend all of this money, Congress, but if you do, here’s how we would prefer to see you spend it.”

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There are the expected cuts to the social safety net, which are further proof that the president*’s words on the campaign trail were as utterly worthless as everybody knew they were. Over the next decade, there’s a $266 million hack at Medicare, and a $1.1 trillion hack at Medicaid. As for Social Security, they’re after the SSDI program again, cutting it by $72 billion. The National Endowment for the Arts and public broadcasting are scheduled to be zeroed out. And the budget celebrates Infrastructure Week by cutting the Highway Trust Fund.

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On Tuesday, we celebrated the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, who insisted that the architectural work on the Capitol continue through the civil war because he believed that completing the project would stand for the preservation of the Union. And he wasn’t the last president who, in a time of great strife, made sure to value some part of the political commonwealth for more than how it could be coined into profit. As Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. wrote:

“In the third year of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln ordered work to go ahead on the completion of the dome of the Capitol. When critics protested the diversion of labor and money from the prosecution of the war, Lincoln said, ‘If people see the capitol going on, it is a sign that we intend this Union shall go on.’ Franklin Roosevelt recalled this story in 1941 when, with the world in the blaze of war, he dedicated the National Gallery in Washington. And John Kennedy recalled both these stories when he asked for public support for the arts in 1962. Lincoln and Roosevelt, Kennedy said, ‘understood that the life of the arts, far from being an interruption, a distraction, in the life of the nation, is very close to the center of a nation’s purpose—and is a test of the quality of a nation’s civilization.”

You know what this budget is good for? It’s good for scaring powerless people. That’s not a job for a president. That’s not a job for a mature democracy. Hell, it’s not even a job for grown-ups.

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